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How a Calm Call for Help Led 2 N.Y.P.D. Officers Into a Hail of Gunfire



The shooter, at least in the public record, seemed to be a reformed, middle-aged ex-convict who had put the crimes of his youth behind him. His mother, in her call to the police, made no mention of violence or weapons in the apartment, and his mind-set and motivations behind the shooting remain unknown.

The shootings immediately called to mind the ambush-style assassinations of two officers in 2014, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were sitting in their radio car when a gunman approached and opened fire. That shooter had traveled to New York City from Baltimore, saying he intended to kill officers after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., at the hands of the police.

In that way, the two shootings, however different their circumstances, seemed immediately linked by the surrounding social and political upheaval in which they were set.

“It is our city against the killers,” said an emotional Mayor Adams hours later. “It is our city against the killers. This was just not an attack on three brave officers. This was an attack on the City of New York.”

In her 911 call, the mother was calm and said she was not in immediate harm, a police official said. She said she had recently undergone surgery and had a stent put in, and that Mr. McNeil had come to New York in November from his home in Baltimore to assist her in her recovery. Though the police initially said that Mr. McNeil was on parole in New York, an official on Saturday said that was inaccurate.

After the shooting, she told the police that she had seen a gun in his possession in a past visit to Maryland, and that she had told him that if he came to New York, he was not to bring any guns, the police official said.

Friday’s shooting represents a worst-nightmare scenario for domestic disturbance calls, which are a common part of police work but can turn perilous in an instant, said Keith Taylor, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a 23-year veteran of the city’s Police Department.

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